Medieval attempts at feminism: the feminist efforts of Geoffrey Chaucer

Bradbury, Olivia (2023) Medieval attempts at feminism: the feminist efforts of Geoffrey Chaucer. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Geoffrey Chaucer is one of the best-known writers of the English Middle Ages. As such, his work has been the subject of much study and discussion for centuries, with many schools of criticism analyzing it through their respective lenses. Within the realm of feminist criticism and theory, Chaucer’s writing has often been a point of contention as many have debated whether he is a feminist or antifeminist. In this thesis, I propose to analyze and discuss three of Chaucer’s major works—The Book of the Duchess, Troilus and Criseyde, and The Legend of Good Women—focusing particularly on his depiction of female characters and his portrayals of gender. My goal is to show that the feminist-antifeminist binary is too narrow-minded a system of categorization in the case of Chaucer. Instead, I suggest that the label best suited to Chaucer is that of “proto-feminist,” an individual who, while they might not meet modern standards of feminism, was more progressive than the standards of their own era.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Item ID: 16129
Additional Information: Includes bibliographical references (pages 112-121)
Keywords: Chaucer, feminism, proto-feminism, medieval literature, The Book of the Duchess, Troilus and Criseyde, The Legend of Good Women
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > English Language and Literature
Date: March 2023
Date Type: Submission
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Chaucer, Geoffrey, -1400; Chaucer, Geoffrey, -1400. Book of the Duchesse; Chaucer, Geoffrey, -1400. Troilus and Criseyde; Chaucer, Geoffrey, -1400. Legend of good women; Feminism in literature; Literature, Medieval

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